What’s the Right Amount of Time to Date Someone When You Want to be Married?

I focus on dating topics for 30- and 40-something women who want to fall in love and get married. A big question that we ask ourselves in this age range is “how long should I date the man I’m with?” In other words, what’s the right amount of time to date someone before you’re on a path to marriage or it’s time to move on. After all, if a woman wants to be in a committed relationship with someone who wants the same thing, shouldn’t there be a limit to dating time? This is a loaded question, of course, because women are in such a variety of situations.

For the sake of talking about timelines, I have to make a few assumptions. It takes everyone a different amount of time to fall in love. Sometimes love comes quickly and other times it’s a slow burn until the embers turn bright. My first assumption is that you either can see yourself falling in love with this man or you’re already in love with him if you’re asking yourself how much of my life do I invest in this person? Let’s be candid. Dating is an investment of time. If you want to be married while you’re in your 30s or 40s, you need to be mindful of time. We’re all getting older and most of us would prefer to be married while we’re younger than whatever we personally consider old.

My second assumption is that you’re clear on whether you want children (or more children if you already have some). Like it or not, the biological clock reminds us that we shouldn’t take years and years to make up our mind about staying with someone. And we shouldn’t take years waiting for things to get better if they’re rocky or outright terrible. I’m sorry if this is a painful statement for you who are already overwhelmingly aware of your clock. Some women need more reminders than you do.

My third assumption is that you’re only considering someone “qualified.” This is serious business. I have to assume that if you’re serious about finding love and marriage that you’re only spending time with someone who shares similar values with you and someone who has at some point revealed that he sees himself married one day. Don’t ever waste time on someone who says they just want to have fun or they aren’t sure about ever getting married. You want to be married someday (sooner rather than later), so why would you want to date someone who doesn’t or who is lukewarm about it? Even if you have strong feelings for such a person, realize that you’ve put yourself in a spot that doesn’t serve you or your goal well. Ultimately you’re responsible for your choices, so choose well for yourself!

I’ve broken down my suggestions by age and the desire to have children. Remember, I’m writing to women who know they want to find love and marriage. It’s fine if someone is perfectly happy in an unmarried, long-term relationship, but they’re not the intended audience here.

Age 30-32, Wants Kids
If you’re 30-32 and you know you want children (or more children), then date a man a max of 18 months to three years. By the end of this time frame, you should either be engaged or married. If you’re not, seriously assess moving on.

Age 33-40, Wants Kids
If you’re 33-40 and you know you want children (or more children), then date a man a max of 12 to 18 months. Obviously stay on the lower end of that timeframe the older you are in this age range. By the end of this time frame, you should either be engaged or married. Yes, I’m saying a year to a year and a half is the max time you should give someone if you really want to be married and have kids at this age range. If you’re freaking out a little over this, then maybe you’re too used to dating men who “like to take things slow” or men who say “just go with the flow, what’s the hurry?” A relationship with such a man can eat up your precious time.

Age 30-39, Having Kids Isn’t a Factor
If you’re 30-49 and you know children (or more of them) aren’t a must, or if you don’t want kids but you still want to be married, then you’re time frame is a bit more relaxed. Date a man a max of 2 to 3 years. After 3 years of dating in this age range, one has to wonder if there is a strong desire to be married. Marry or move on.

Are there exceptions to these suggestions? Sure, there are always exceptions. But an exception should never include factors about you or him being unsure about your commitment.

I realize that talking about dating timelines can drive you crazy. It’s possible that you already have your own set of expected timelines to date someone, fall in love, be engaged, and start a family. Don’t overwhelm yourself with where you want to be. Keep timing on your mind, but try not to let it consume you. Remember, you have control over the dating choices you make. Sometimes the decisions you have to make are tough ones but the right ones. Be your own boss of who you spend your time with and for how long.


You’re Eager, NOT Desperate

This blog is for women in their 30s or 40s who want to find love and marriage. I’m here to provide encouragement because I spent twenty years of dating before getting married. I know a lot of the pitfalls to avoid and have some good advice for helping you figure out your best choices to meet your goal.

You are sooooo ready to be in a relationship. But you don’t want to be labelled as “desperate” and maybe you’re hanging low because you’re worried about appearing so. By now you know that men can sniff “desperation” ten feet away. I put desperation in quotes because you should never think of yourself as desperate. That happens to be a loosely-used term that people sometimes use to label women who admit they want a relationship. The truth is, desperation is something far from just being ready to be in a relationship. It’s taking extreme measures that go beyond what is reasonable or sensible to find love. Like throwing yourself at a guy who obviously is trying to nicely say no. Or calling a guy who rarely takes the initiative to call you first. That, in my opinion is desperate.

YOU, on the other hand, are anything but desperate! You want to find love and you happen to want to find it sooner rather than later. You are eager, not desperate.You put yourself out there. You’re willing to ask trusted friends or co-workers if they know anyone they could fix you up with. You’re willing to try dating sites and use honest profiles (as well as look for honesty in your prospects’ profiles). You’re willing to take the initiative to talk to someone new. You’re willing to get involved in outdoor activities that might be out of your comfort zone so that you can meet more people and have a life outside of work and the bar scene.

OK, so maybe you’re not there yet with regard to my suggestions. But these are the exact types of things you need to be doing to meet people. I’m not reducing dating to a numbers game, but you do have to try more than a few times and more than a few methods if that’s what it takes. It’s normal to feel eager for a relationship, especially if you’ve spent a long time without one.

Don’t fear the judgments of others when deciding to let others know you want a relationship. You might wonder, well, what should I say on a first date? That I AM looking for something serious? Honestly, I think you have to gauge that with the person you’re with. While a lot of “serious” talk can turn off men on a first date, there’s no reason you can’t feel out what HE is thinking. Or maybe he’ll be the one to ask questions to feel out what you’re thinking. Sometimes it just comes out naturally in conversation whether someone is ready for something serious. For example, if a man mentions his distaste for all the superficial women he’s been meeting online, that might be a clue that he’s looking for something deeper. And sometimes a man isn’t in the mode of thinking about a serious relationship, but a connection to someone special puts him in that mode as time goes by.

In your eagerness, remember to be yourself and don’t lose sight of what kind of person matches your personality. The last thing you want to do is jump into a relationship with someone who isn’t a good fit for you. That only ends up wasting your time. Eagerness should get you out there trying, and then a touch of patience will help you be discerning about who is ultimately a good fit for you.

NEXT: More thoughts on TIME and how long you should date someone before committing or moving on.


Finding Love & Marriage in Your 30s & 40s

An introduction to my story of finding love and marriage. In your 30s or 40s? Stick with me for no-nonsense advice.

The content of this blog is for all women in their 30s and 40s who want to find a partner, a mate, a confidant, a friend—that one man who will be your loving husband. You are here because you know marriage is something you want for yourself.  What you have done so far hasn’t yet worked, but you’re open to advice and taking guided steps to get to where you want to be.  I’m here to share what I learned after two decades of dating so that you might avoid common pitfalls and attain your dream of marriage sooner.  

My Story

I found myself in the dating world for many years longer than I ever imagined. I assumed that I’d meet the love of my life by my late twenties and start having children no later than age 30 or 31. There wasn’t a map for how this would happen. I figured finding Mr. Right and getting married would fall into place as easily as it seemed to for so many others. Finding love and marriage seemed like it would happen in a timely manner, as if it were the natural course of life.

But it didn’t work out that way for me. Not by a long shot.

I had spent my college years with a boyfriend who wowed me with his great sense of humor and intellect. Looking back, our relationship was emotionally volatile and immature. It never had a chance. Of course I spent the whole four years of college with him, closing myself off from a wider range of experiences. I can chalk that one up to being very young in the world. I don’t blame myself for being struck by the intensity of a first love. Still, I wonder what more I could have made from my college days if I’d had a more mature vision.

I didn’t have another serious relationship until my late twenties. He was a talented musician, also with a warm sense of humor. But important pieces were missing. And he had his own demons to address. I knew for the duration that I probably wouldn’t marry him, yet his personality and our love kept my heart tied to him for three and a half years. I bound myself to something that wasn’t workable for either of us. I had spent ages 25 to 29 with him. These were arguably the most prime years of my life for finding a husband. Prime years that could have been spent more wisely. I don’t say that with any disrespect to this boyfriend. I say it with the benefit of hindsight. I should have moved on sooner for both our sakes’. He certainly found someone quick enough after our break up while I mourned over the relationship the better part of two years.

And then came my thirties, my most anxiety-driven, frustrating thirties—at least where dating was concerned. The whole playing field suddenly turned more serious and ominous. Because I wanted children, dating became high stakes overnight. Even if I dated someone “just for fun,” (because it was obvious he didn’t have the same expectations as I did) I knew I was wasting precious time. Time that needed to be focused on finding the right man. While I did some amazing things in my thirties and met some great single friends along the way, the exasperated undertone of finding love was always gnawing in my mind. There wasn’t a way to relax from the fear that life might not turn out how I expected.

I dated and I dated and I dated. I got hurt many times. And I probably hurt people who didn’t deserve to be hurt. I went through times of playing it cool and times of just being me. I looked for love as naturally as I could. I stopped looking for love at times because “they say” you find it when you aren’t looking. Nothing seemed to be leading me to him. I made mistakes. Unlike the cliché that says “I wouldn’t have done anything different,” I definitely would have! My journey was long and it was exhausting. There were many good times and there were many tears.

Finally, I found my Mr. Right at age 39. In the first few weeks of knowing him, I almost let him get away. Briefly, I was wishy washy about getting involved with him. I did my usual overthinking about whether he was a match for me. My better senses made me take stock that I had before me an attractive, intelligent man who called me, texted me, showed up on time, did what he said he would do, and made me laugh every day. And most importantly, I could totally be myself with him. I can remember the exact spot on the road I was driving when it suddenly hit me that he’d become the first person I wanted to call every day when I got off work. Love developed in a few short months. We married after a year of dating. And after years of fearing my biological clock would run out, I am fortunate to have two beautiful children as a result of my commitment to him.

I learned a lot from my decade of mistakes and my efforts to make good dating choices. Enough years have passed to allow me to form a mature perspective about all of it. I’ve started this blog to help women who are currently on their journey to find love and marriage. The thirties and forties can be emotionally tender times for finding your Mr. Right.

You can’t have blinders over your eyes when you’re on this path. You need a no-nonsense approach and you need to be committed to upholding what you value in life. When is the last time you thought about your values? When you are searching for a lifelong partner, common values are critical to the success of your marriage. If you make choices to feel good for the moment or to have fun for the short-term, you are short-changing yourself. And more significantly, you are wasting time. Some of what you read in this blog will apply to you and some might not. There is no “one size fits all” with dating guidelines. Take what applies to you and be consistent and dedicated in your approach. You will find him.

Stay with me for more content on finding love and marriage in your 30s and 40s.